How the U.S.-Mexico border influences adolescent substance use: Youth participatory action research using photovoice

Elizabeth Salerno Valdez, Josephine Korchmaros, Samantha Sabo, David O. Garcia, Scott Carvajal, Sally Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Introduction: The purpose of this study is to use Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) methods and Photovoice to identify the perceived environmental factors that influence substance use among adolescents living at the U.S.-Mexico border. Methods: One academic and a local youth health coalition engaged in Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) using Photovoice and qualitative methods to examine the perceived factors influencing adolescent substance use in their border community. Results: Identified novel risk factors for adolescent substance use on the border included the normalization of drug trafficking, normalization of substance use, and cross-border access to substances. Novel protective factors included living in a close-knit binational community and having strong binational family and social support systems. The findings also illustrate a nexus of 'factors' wherein risk and protective elements overlap. Conclusion: This study contributes to the broader literature on international border health and how living in a border space influences adolescent substance use. The examination of influential border-bound factors provides a more complete understanding of the experiences of youth living on the U.S.-Mexico border, and informs the field of the importance of considering the border experience for future prevention and risk reduction efforts with border adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-155
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • Adolescent substance use
  • Adolescents
  • Latino
  • Photovoice
  • U.S.-Mexico border
  • Youth participatory action research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


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